Gardening and Man's Creation in God's
Throughout history men have set aside gardens, that is, specially cultivated plots of land for vegetables trees blooming shrubs and flowers. No other creature on earth has this strong desire and ability for gardening, especiafly formal horticulture involving the aesthetically pleasing integration of buildings with the grounds where they stand. This paper will concentrate on formal horticulture in the West.
Today there are countless hooks and magazines on gardening design, gardening techniques, gardening history, famous gardens, gardening catalogs, supply houses, nurseries and the like. According to a Gallup Poll, "On any given weekend up to 78 percent of American households (were) out working the earth" in the late 1980s (Francis and Hester, p.8). Many people without access to a plot of ground at least care for potted houseplants or window boxes as their miniature gardens. Millions visit the many beautiful public gardens and parks so characteristic of human civilization. Gardens are so extensively used as symbols in literature and poetry that many books and articles regularly appear on this special area of human creativity. Historians, philosophers, landscape architects, and most recently medical researchers, psychologists and sociologists study and write about gardening.
All these facts testify to the obvious truth that man is preeminently and inveterately a gardenen Sir Francis Bacon paid homage to this truth when he wrote in 1620: "God Almighty first planted a Garden. And indeed it is the purest of human pleasures. It is the greatest refreshment to the spirits of man; without which buildings and palaces are but gross handyworks." (Quarto Marketing, p. 13) This paper will give a brief outline of the origin and meaning of gardening, of the history of gardening in the West till the zenith of formal gardening in the baroque period, of the gardening revolution in Europe in the late 1700s and its aftermath, ofhow gardens reflect their makers, and flnMly of gardening and the contemporary New Age movement.
The Origin and Meaning of Gardening
Where does this amazing feature of man's character come from? Man's love of formal landscape architecture and especially his diligent use of his leisure time to breed, plant and care for ornamental trees, shrubs and flowers which today bloom and tomorrow fade away cannot be explained by evolutionist theories based on chance and utility. Consider the following evolutionist speculation on the origin of gardening by well-known contemporary landscape architect Garrett Eckbo, Professor Emeritus of Landscape Architecture at the University of California, Berkeley:
In the beginning the land was hot and fluid.... Much time passed. Somewhere in the ocean there was a spark. Vegetable and animal kingdoms began to dominate the mineral.... One day an animal stood up on his hind legs to reach a higher fruit. ... The production and control of fire was discovered, and shortly after, landscape design began. (Francis and Hester, p.96)This statement reads like bad science fiction or a bad joke, but it is meant seriously and agrees with the overall evolutionist scenario. In no way does it do justice to man's love of ornamental gardening which is strong evidence that be lives by more than bread (Eckbo's "higher fruit") alone. The origin and hence the explanation of mankind's universal and unique predisposition to gardening must be sought elsewhere. The Bible account of Eden, which evolutionists like Eckbo seek to discredit and supplant by their scientifically totally unsubstantiated flights of fancy, offers the only alternative.
According to the biblical creation record God Himself was the original Gardener Who made the Garden of Eden. This God, Creator and Gardener, created man in His own image and likeness, and therefore man is an invererate gardener as well. Creationist leader Henry Morris writes that "the world's first garden ... must have been a beautiful garden, for God had planted it Himself. Every tree was 'pleasant to the sight'; there was a lovely river 'to water the garden' (Genesis 2:9, 10), and God was there." (Morris, Days of praise, Oct. 7, 1991) when Lot chose the plain of the Jordan River to dwell in, he saw that it was "well watered everywhere ... like the garden of the LORD" (Genesis 13:10). Strikingly enough, Jesus Christ prayed in another garden, Gethsemane, before going to His death, and "in the place where He was crucified there was a garden: and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had ever been laid. ... they laid Jesus there" (John 19:41, 42 NIV). Morris concludes:
God had walked alone in the first garden, seeking His own. He knelt alone in the second garden, praying for His own. He was buried alone in the third garden, dying for His own. Therefore, in the new "Paradise of God," where the pure river flows and the tree of life grows, eternally, "His servants shall serve Him" and reign with Him "for ever and ever" (Revelation 2:7; 22:1, 2, 3, 5).Yes, Eden points to Paradise! It also points to the "enclosed garden" to which the Bridegroom (Christ) compares His beloved Bride (the Church) in the Song of Solomon. In Henry Loray's moving novel on the life of St. Augustine, Monica, Augustine's saintly Christian mother, tells her son never to forget that
heaven is to be a garden, or rather a fountain of gardens, a well of living waters ... or better still, an orchard ... with all the chief spices [Song of Solomon 4:12-15].... Better than an orchard, a park ... watered by the water of life... and His servants shall serve Him and they shall see His face [Revelation 22:1-6]. (Loray, pp.227-228)Not only Christians and the Bible compare the eternal abode of the righteous to a perfect garden. As John Brookes notes, "It is significant that in most ancient civilizations and religions, the life hereafter and the place of eternal happiness are depicted as gardens." (Quarto Marketing, p.14)
Even as Eden and the natural creation reflect God, so man's gardens reflect man. Eden and the natural creation which man must take care of under God (Genesis 2:15) give meaning to time. Russell Page has found a special meaning for gardening in our hurried age: "It is a gardener's pleasure ... to break this crazy rhythm, to change and break the rush of time, and make the garden a quiet island in which a moment has a new meaning." (Quoted in Massiugham, p.17) This idea is not new: the "medieval garden [alreadyj was essentially a sanctuary, a place enclosed." (Clifford, p.20)
That we feel the need to make our gardens "quiet islands" or "sanctuaries" apart from the world points to man's fall, when man was barred from Eden by cherubim with flaming sword (Genesis 3:24). Even as God must deal with men no longer perfect in His own image and likeness but corrupted and rebellious by sin, so man must deal in the sweat of his brow with fields and gardens infested by thorns and thistles (Genesis 3:17-19). Work itself is not a curse but was involved in gardening already before the fall as part and parc& of God's creation mandate to man. To sum up, man's gardening originates in his cre- ation in God's own image and likeness. Hence gardens remind us of Eden, our primordial home, of our ~ and our need for salvation, and embody our longing for restoration to eternal joy in paradise in the presence of our Creator.
The Garden from Antiquity through the Baroque Period
The Hanging Gardens of Babylon were one of the Seven Wonders of antiquity. They were built around 600 B.C. by King Nebuchadnezzar, perhaps for his wife who longed for the mountainous land of ber birth. "Although no remains have been found, the Garden's design was probably the combination of an agricultural method (growing plants on terraced bfllsides) and an architectural monument (the temple tower or ziggurat)." (Quarto Marketing, p.14) Similar garden mounds have been recorded from ancient China, Babylonia, the Hittites, Medes and Persians, and also fifteenth century America.
In Assyria there were enclosed parks for the amusement of the rulers, and there is some evidence of garden design in Sumer and Assyria. It is possible that Queen Hatshepsut of Egypt (1490-1469 B.C.), and Assyrian Kings Tiglath-Pileser (ca. 1100 B.C.) and S~nnachenb (705-681 B.C.) already started botanic collections (Clifford, p.46).
Surviving wall paintings show that gardens were made in Egypt. The most detafled view comes from a wall painting in Thebes which shows the garden of a high official under Amenhotep 111(1411-1372 B.C.). It was a w~led garden adjacent to a canal. Its layout was symmetrical and orderly with vineyards, orchards, water tanks, and garden pavilions. The residence was an intregral part of the whole garden. Important garden traditions can already be noted, such as an axis for structure and order, the use of plants for specific functions such as food, shade, and decoration, and the integration of the garden with its natural environment (ef. Quarto Marketing, p.16)
Tradihons of garden design in ancient Greece are little known because few records exist, because the Greek landscape was possibly not well suited for gardening, and because of Greece's pantheistic religion which forbade intefference with local deities of mountains, streams and groves of trees.
By the first century A.D. gardening in Rome was well developed as we know from garden descriptions in letters of Pliny the Younger (A.D. 62-118) to his friends. Topiary, the art of trimming bushes in various shapes such as animals, naval battles, or even the names of the estate's owner or the topiarist himself, had entered ornamental gardening with Canius Martius, a friend of the Emperor Augustus. Pliny had some topiary in his garden in Thscany, where there was "the careful juxtaposition of the wild garden and the formal" (Clifford, p.18).
We hear little about ornamental gardens from the fall of Rome until the high middle ages, when medieval gardens had pergolas ("green tunnels") with open squares between. They always had water (a fountain or well) and "principal ornamental features" (Clifford, p.87). The use of water not only to nourish the plants but also to beautify the garden design as a whole through artful techniques of water jets and decorative fountains came to Europe from the Arabs by way of Spain.
Renaissance gardens reached out beyond the medieval garden enclosure to nature at large. The zenith of formal gardening came with the baroque period of the sixteenth century, which brought us the magnificent classic gardens and parks designed by Louis x'V's court gardener Andre Le Notre and his school. Le Notre's influence reached as far as Russia where his famous pupil Alexandre Le Blond designed the court gardens of Peterhof and other famous St. Petersburg gardens for Tsar Peter the Great. Had he not died of smallpox at age 89 after only thirty months in Russia, French baroque would have had a yet greater impact upon Russia. (Massie, pp.627-682)
The Gardening Revolution of the Late 1700s and Its Aftermath
A gardening revolution of tremendous proportions against baroque's classic constraints took place in Europe in the latter part of the eighteenth century. Whereas always before the garden had been carefully cultivated and landscaped as an extension of the residence and was by definition clearly and intentionally distinguished from uncultivated nature, garden designers now wanted to bring an idealized nature or wilderness right up to men's very dwellings. In England this revolution was introduced by William Kent, who "brought back from Italy isolated pictures of deteriorated Renaissance gardens. `But here was no longer the ordered reflection of a disciplined universe."' (Clifford, p.186) Gardens were now to be merged with the rest of nature with as little visible cultivation and enclosures as possible. Presumably with approval Jean-Jacques Rousseau, the philosopher who blamed civilization for all mankind's ills, described in Julie, or La Nouvelle Heloise (1760) "a garden in which there is to be discerned no trace of man's hand." (Clifford, p.151) Such a "garden" would really be not a true garden at all. This gardening revolution foreshadowed the rejection of traditional and especially Christian social mores which erupted with the French Revolution in 1789. (cf. Berthoud, Revolution et Christionisme)
The next notable garden designer in England after Kent was Lancelot "Capability" Brown, whose ideal was the English park garden. He used an "abstractionist approach" of very simple patterns aad the sparse means of "Contours of green turf, mirrors of still water, a few species of tree used singly or in clumps or in loosely contrived belts-and that was all." (Clifford, p.159)
People soon grew tired of these overly simple nad monotonous gardens, and Humphrey Repton replaced "Capability" Brown as England's favorite landscape designer. He ushered in the eclectic gardening of the Victorian era, which could still be very "romantic" and was carried on by more people than ever before. More and more foreign plants were introduced and more and more flowers were planted to create oases of beauty for which people, reflecting man's original creation in God's own image and likeness, longed in a rapidly industrializing and urbanized society Eminent historian Paul Johnson gives us other fascinating details:
People, if they could afford it, made their gardens look wild" and `ancient" by putting in bits of Gothic apparatus. ... In the years after 1815, "rustic" garden furniture made its appearance, along with rock gardens and painted wooden or plaster gnomes (imported from ultra-romantic Germany)...The eclecticism which marked Victorian gardening has continued to prevail to our own time. Rarely do home gardeners consciously follow a historical pattern in the layout of their gardens. Besides, gardening depends upon the financial means and especially the leisure time available to the gardener. There are, of course, still numerous wealthy estates where landscape architects can design gardens according to ideaf preconceived plans. Finally, there are the community parks and botanical gardens where formal horticulture flourishes.
The cult of gardens, which was spreading rapidly down the social scale in the years after 1815, was one way of protesting against the modern world, holding it at bay as the 1820s progressed, a new phenomenon appeared - the London and especially the suburban garden.
Indeed it found a crusading advocate, John Claudius Loudon (1783-1843)... [London] wrote, illustrated and published books [on gardening] which often sold tens of thousands of copies
[Loudon] was the first writer to insist that it was not merely proper but positively moral for ladies and gentlemen to dig and plant their own gardens ... [He] gave people hope that beauty and nature could still hold their own in an industrialized society....in his own way, [he] was one of the most influential minds of the century (Johnson, pp.282-283)
Gardens as Reflecting Their Makers
While gardening is a facet of God's image and likeness bestowed upon man at creation, it does not necessarily match the gardener's overall character or express a godly imagination. Andre Le Notre was "honest, honourable and plain-spoken; everybody loved and respected him, for he never stepped out of his place nor forgot it and was always perfectly disinterested ... There was an artlessness about him, a simple-hearted candour that was perfectly delightful." (Saint-Simon, quoted in Clifford, p.80) On the other hand, Paul deParrie and Mary Pride point out that "the apparent contradiction between the fantastic gardens of [Aztec King] Montezuma which rivaled the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, and his utterly debased witchcraft and blood-rites takes your breath away." (Deparrie and Pride, p.111) Rudolf Hoess, commandant of the infamous Nazi concentration camp ofAuscbwitz, had prisoners work in his garden which "was a paradise of flowers." (Hoess, p.173) The medical exterminators of handicapped children at the psychiatric hospital of Eglfing-Haar near Munich in the Nazi euthanasia program saw to it that at the window of the extermination room there was "a geranium plant which was always carefully watered." (Wertham, p.59)
In his superb novel That Hideous Strength C. S. Lewis hints at the character of the Christian remnant gathered at St. Anne's on the hill and the demonic organization named N.I.C.E. ("National Institute for Coordinated Experiments") at Belbury by way of their gardens. The garden at St. Anne's is well tended and inviting to man and beast, large, homey and comfortable. The grounds around Belbury
were not the sort of grounds that anyone could walk in for pleasure ... [they were] enclosed ... with a low brick wall surmounted by an iron railing ... There were ... winding paths covered so thickly with round white pebbles that you could hardly walk on them. ... There were plantations-slabs would be almost a better word-of that kind oflaurel which looks as ifit were made ofcleverly painted and varnished ........ The whole effect was like that of a municipal cemetery. (Lewis, 1965,p. 101)Lewis also gives a chilling picture of the anti-life and anti-human nature of the N.I.C.E. in Professor Filostrato, one of its leaders, a scientist who has kept the head of a guillotined criminal functioning for the use of the N.I.C.E.'s real rulers, the "macrobes" (demons). Filostrato has some fine natural trees in the grounds of Belbury cut down and wants to replace them by artificial trees, "Light, made of aluminium. So natur~, it would even deceive." Such trees could be moved about at will and would cause "No leaves to fall, no twigs, no birds building nests, no muck and mess." (Lewis, 1965, p.172) Here, as Lewis also made clear in his excellent non-fiction treatise The Abolition of Man, is the essence of that inhuman hatred for natural life which indwells extreme atheistic rationalists and materialists. The opposite extreme is idolatrous worship of nature above God and man, and ultimately just as deadly to man, as in the neopagan pantheistic world view whose rapid rise we are observing among us today
Gardens and the New Age Movement
For the last ten to fifteen years there has been a noticeable trend towards the garden as an extension of wild, uncultivated nature. This trend, a veritable "paradigm shift" according to its promoters, is the expression in gardening of the "New Age" philosophy of our generation, and it is sometimes deliberately presented in antibiblical terms. For example, Jeff Cox puts it as follows in one of the most recent and most important analyses of gardening:
In our traditional myth, the Garden of Eden was a paradise with no good or bad to it. Only when Adam and Eve ate the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil did they become imperfect, and therefore exiled from paradise. It's not that there was no darkness in paradise - the snake was there after all - but rather that before the fall, good and evil were not recognized by Adam and Eve. They had not tasted the fruit. They lived without prejudice and acted without second thoughts...Of course this "paradigm shift" is not new, as nothing is really new in the New Age movement; the gardening revolution of the late 1700s already called for uncultivated wilderness "gardens." The New Age movement is but the old paganism, or the barbarism ever crouching at the borders of civflization ready to invade and destroy. As Gilbert Keith Chesterton put it, "Civilisation in the best sense merely means the full authority of the human spirit over all externals [as God commanded man at creation, Genesis 1:26, 28]. Barbarism means the worship of those externals in their crude and unconquered state [and is therefore rebellion against God's creation mandate to man]. Barbarism means the worship of Nature; and in recent poetry, science, and philosophy there has been too much of the worship of Nature." (Marlin, Rabatin, and Swan, p.67)
When the wholeness of the world became split into categories, humankind saw the world and its creatures as good (my caribou) and bad (those wolves). ... Modern civilization began. Gardens attempted to recreate paradise A natural garden, on the other hand, dissolves the split and validates reality. It includes the wide, wild world as it is, warts and all. (Francis and Hester, p.25)
We might ask proponents of their untended "natural garden" whether they do not simply wish to sbirk the hard work of garden cultivation; after all, an easy way to produce their "natural garden" is simply to neglect a cultivated one. We must ask today's New Age worshipers of nature whether their "natural garden" is really a garden, that is, by definition cultivated and separate from "the wide, wild world," and expose their semantic deceit. We must also point out that their "natural garden" would include poison ivy, wasps' nests and other organisms harmful or even deadly to man. We must understand that to replace the worship of the God and Creator of the Bible by the worship of nature is and must be hostile not only to God but also to man, the unique creature made in God's own image and likeness.
The "romantic" gardening revolution in the late iloos, like today's neopagan New Age movement, opposed garden cultivation due to its idolatrous worship of untamed nature. The early Romantics may not have been aware of the anti-biblical and ultimately anti-human implications of their view. However, spokespersons of today's New Age movement certainly know what they are doing. To substantiate this claim, let us turn once more to evolutionist professor of landscape architecture Garrett Eckbo, who describes his picture of the New Age ecologist future one-world utopia in his article "Today into Tomorrow: An Optimistic View":
In each growth area of the world, following the experience of China [that is, first the mass murder of many millions of people and then forced abortion and sterilization to limit population growth!], humane [!] measures [would be] designed ... to bring the population down to a level that the basic ecosystems of its land could support The plans ... [would be] aimed at ultimate coordination in a steady-state world in which the population would be tailored to fit the environment, rather than vice versa. (Francis and Hester, p.230)This statement also shows that prominent New Age thinkers want to rule the whole world, and that they, like their atheist-materialist counterparts and allies, by no means eschew the use of force to implement their goal, "tailoring" the population to fit the environment. This their goal is open, ultimate rebellion against God's biblical creation mandate to man, and is indeed, in C. S. Lewis's words, the visible "abolition of man" as that unique being created to live by obeying God's moral law.
Summary and Conclusion
Ornamental gardening is a unique mark of man. It cannot be accounted for by evolutionist fiction but only by the biblical creation record. Gardens witness to man 5 creation in God the Creator's and First Gardener's own image and likeness, and they point back to Eden, our primordial perfect home, to our fall and need for salvation, and to our hope for eternal life in paradise restored.
From antiquity until the latter part of the eighteenth century gardening was always understood to be the cultivation of a special plot of land distinguished from untamed nature. At that time a gardening revolution occurred in the West which sought to merge gardens with the rest of nature with as little visible cultivation and enclosures as possible. This development really meant the abolition of the garden properly speaking. It foreshadowed the abolition of traditional and especially Christian social mores which erupted with the French Revolution. This gardening revolution was followed by a brief "abstractionist" school of gardening, and then by the eclectic gardening of the Victorian era which is still largely the vogue today.
Gardens reflect their makers in that gardening itself is a facet of God's image and likeness in man, but gardening does not necessarily match the gardener's overall character or express a godly imagination. Andre Le Notre, the greatest gardening genius of the zenith of formal horticulture during the baroque period, was a loveable man, but love of gardening also marked bloody Aztec King Montezuma, Nazi concentration commandant Rudolf Hoess, and the child exterminators of the Nazi euthanasia program. C. S. Lewis describes gardens to hint at the character of godly and evil people in his novel That Hideous Strength.
Today's New Age movement, which worships "nature" rather than God, aims at the replacement of gardens by wild, uncultivated nature, a trend reminiscent of the gardening revolution of the late 1700s. This is really the abolition of gardens proper and must lead to the abolition of man himself. Lastly, it is done in conscious rejection and rebellion against the God of Creation and as such a sign of our apostate, chaotic time.
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